Three men are fishing the marshes of Essex (outside of London) in 1915 when they come across a floating body. They determine that the man is indeed dead from the bullet wound in the back of his head. They also discover that he has a fair amount of cash on his person. Deciding that he will have no use for the money, they divide the amount in three and swear to keep their discovery a secret. And so starts Charles Todd’s latest Ian Rutledge mystery.
It is now 1920, the Great War has ended, and Sergeant Hampton brings a man into Inspector Rutledge’s office. The man, Wyatt Russell, is apparently dying of cancer and he is there to confess to the murder of his cousin, Justin Fowler. Rutledge can’t get many details from Russell but his interest is piqued by the confession. Although this isn’t an official investigation yet, Rutledge decides that he has to find out more details. Following the slimmest of leads, he travels to the edges if Essex and the abandoned estate, Rivers Edge, where the Russell family lived. Finding no one there, and proceeds into the nearby town of Furnham where he discovers that all the citizens seem to resent visitors. He realizes it will be difficult to learn anything about the Russell family who owned Rivers Edge.
Little by little he starts to accumulate information on the Russells. It seems that Justin Fowler and Cynthia Farraday were taken in and raised by the Russell family when both had lost all of their parents. But now the mystery only deepens as a new body turns up and Rutledge identifies the body as the man who presented himself as Wyatt Russell … but it is not Russell! The corpse is identified as Ben Willet and where does he figure in all of this? Now the case has become official and it is up to Rutledge to put the pieces of the mystery in some sort of context. Obviously a murderer or murderers are still loose in this isolated part of Essex, and some of the answers may be found in the war records of the all the men involved in the case.
The mother and son writing team known as Charles Todd has produced another fascinating mystery, especially for the lovers of nuanced English mysteries.